Shuttle Discovery launches at night on STS-116
12/9/06 ~ 8:47:35pm

      Launch Photos

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First night shuttle launch since 2002 & the final shuttle mission from Pad 39B

The Space Shuttle Discovery lifts-off at 8:47:35pm EST on STS-116, the 117th flight of the space shuttle program. The launch was the first nighttime shuttle launch since Fall 2002, and the mission was one of the most complex ISS flights to date. Discovery attached a short truss section to the ISS, rolled up a solar array in preparation for its movement later on, and astronauts performed a very complex rewiring job outside the station on four spacewalks, one unplanned. Veteran astronaut Bob Curbeam set a new record by performing four EVAs on the flight.

Rollout to the pad
      Crew Arrival

Remote camera setup

Crew walkout on launch day

At left, a short time lapse from a remote camera located 2000 feet from Discovery shows the shuttle's three main engines igniting 6.6 seconds before launch

STS-115      STS-117 --->

These two images show approximately how bright the shuttle is when it launches at night; as viewed from Orlando or Daytona Beach, at 40-50 miles away a good example, the sky over all of Central Florida is lit up:
Right before SSME ignition, "sparklers" are fired below the engines to burn off any excess hydrogen that could cause an explosion. The short time-lapse exposure below shows them trailing across:
When the engines ignite, their 6000 degree temperature and 3500 m/s exhaust vaporize the 300,000 gallons of water that are dumped on the pad to surpress sound and vibrations. The steam is pushed outward from the shuttle:
An underexposed remote image shows Discovery lifting off:
The fury and aftermath of launch from 2000 feet away; the camera shakes violently in the process:
Several photographers' cameras near the beach fired late. This was the first shot taken:
The photo below was taken at what was launch time on the first attempt December 7th. Oxygen (top, and bottom below engines) can be seen venting from the vehicle. The launch was held for the duration of the five-minute long window and ultimately scrubbed due to a low cloud ceiling over the pad: